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Great ice breakers for groups

Editor’s Note: Quint Studer is the author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America.” He will speak in Elkins on March 5. The Inter-Mountain will publish a column by Studer each Saturday leading up to his local appearance.

Group sessions and workshops can be quite powerful. I have been to many events in which ice breaker exercises were used to introduce people to each other, get them reflecting and thinking creatively, or just “warm them up” so conversation will flow more freely. And when I conduct workshops in company or community settings, I rely on these activities, too. They can take the positive energy in the room to an incredible level. Today I’d like to share some of the best ones I’ve discovered over the years.

The Gratitude Huddle. Provide everyone a note card and have them write down something they’ve been grateful for in the past week. If there are more than eight people, have them divide into smaller groups, no bigger than seven. Have them huddle up and share with those in their group what they wrote down. Gratitude helps us get into a positive mindset that improves our creativity, productivity, decision-making, and connection with others.

The Appreciation Papers. This exercise works best with groups who already know each other. Have each person write their name on the top of a sheet of paper. Then pass the papers around to everyone in the room. Each person will write down one thing they appreciate about the person whose name is on the top of the paper. As the papers go around the room, you will feel the energy and sense of fun increasing. When the papers have made it all the way around so that each person has their own paper back, give them time to read the comments.

The Circle of Positivity. Divide the group in half. Place chairs in a circle and have half of the people sit in a chair. Each person in the other half should stand behind someone sitting in a chair. Ask the people sitting to close their eyes. Then have the people in the back think of something positive about the person sitting in front of them and whisper it in their ear. Then have the standers move around the circle until the sitters have heard a positive comment from each of them. Then switch it up, so the people sitting are now standing and vice versa.

The Adjective Game. Ask each attendee to come up with an adjective that starts with the same letter as their first name. Then have everyone introduce themselves using that adjective: for instance, Jolly Janet, Awesome Andrew. Afterward, have each person share why they picked that adjective. It leads to some very good and heartfelt conversation.

The Job Justification. At the start of a session with a company, break people into small groups of five to seven. Have each person share why they picked the job they are doing. For example, at the beginning of the 2018 school year, I was asked to meet with education staff. Each person in their group shared with the others why they chose the role they did: teaching a certain subject, working in food service, working in environmental services, doing office work, serving as speech pathologist or counselor, etc. It was a fun and positive experience.

The 90-Day Promise. Have each person write on a piece of paper something they are going to do for themselves in the next 90 days. It can be something that benefits them professionally, physically, or emotionally. Then have them address an envelope to their home and put their note to themselves in it. Collect the envelopes. Right before the 90 days are up, stamp the envelopes and put them in the mail.

I hope you use some of the activities above. You will not be disappointed. My best and thank you for letting me be in your life. As always, I am grateful.